Seeing God Through the Psalms
Our reading today focuses on how two needs were met. First, it answers the question about whether or not a daughter could inherit her father's property if he didn't have sons (27:1-11). Second, it tells how Moses viewed the Promised Land but died without entering, but God had prepared and appointed Joshua to lead the people into the land (27:12-23). The people were like sheep, in need of a shepherd, a leader who would guide the people in the conquest of Canaan. Joshua was the clear choice. He had been the attendant of Moses from his youth (Num. 11:28; Ex 33:11). He led Israel in battle against the Amalekites, had accompanied Moses on Sinai when he received the law, and was one of the spies sent to scout the promised land. Joshua was the one to replace Moses as leader of Israel - not by accident or coincidence, but by design and preparation.
This chapter gives us a good thought to consider - preparing the next generation to take our place. It's passing the baton of leadership on. It's creating a legacy. But legacy doesn't come by accident. It is the product of training and preparation. Instead of hoping the next generation will be ready when the time comes for them to step into the next role, it's teaching, mentoring, shaping and molding them so that they can step right into the role, and the work can continue seamlessly. Paul told Timothy to teach others what he had been taught so that they might in turn be able to teach others (2 Tim. 2:2). Joshua's aren't born, they're made. They're the product of godly parents, godly mentors, wise men and women who helped teach through word and example.
Here's a question for you to think about today - what can you do to help prepare the next generation? Before you may be the next husbands and wives, mothers and father, servants, teachers, preachers, evangelists, deacons, shepherds, mentors, etc. We can hope that by the time they need to step up they'll be ready, or we can work to teach, train, and prepare them today for their roles to play in the future. Invest in a young person. Share your wisdom. Provide opportunities for them. Be a mentor. Help instill a heart of service, a sincere love for God and His Word. Show them examples of godly marriages, homes that honor Christ. Israel needed Joshua, and Joshua needed Moses. The upcoming generation will, Lord willing, one day, take our place and step into roles of leadership. Pass the torch. Do what you can today to help prepare those who will lead tomorrow.
Wonderful God, today I thank You for the family we have in Christ - what a blessing, what an encouragement, what a support they are to me. I thank You for all the godly individuals who have helped me get to where I am today - all the kind words spoken, all the good examples for me to follow, for those who never gave up on me, for those who gave me opportunities to learn and train, for those who saw the good and potential when I didn't see it in me, thank You. Help me to be the same kind of loving mentor for the next generation. Help me to teach, help me to train, help me to do what I can to prepare those who will follow after me. Thank You for our youth. Thank You for their interest in You - for the love they have for You and Your church. Thank You for the example they set. Thank You for their parents, and their commitment to raising their children in Your ways. Help us prepare the next Joshua's to continue to lead Your people closer to You.
At Kadesh-Barnea and at Baal Peor Israel had sinned greatly and God had chastened them but in His grace he forgave their disobedience and gave them a new start (Numbers 26).
First, there was the second numbering. By the time Israel had entered Zared valley the old generation had died off, except for Joshua and Caleb. And, very soon Moses would die.
Moses had two purposes in mind when he took the second census. As with the first, he needed to know how many men were available that were fighting age. Second, he wanted to get an idea how much land each tribe would need when Israel settled in Canaan (Numbers 26:52-56). Settling in the land required giving the tribes their inheritance.
First, there was the tribal inheritance (No. 26:52-56). Once the land had been conquered and God had given His people rest, Joshua, Eleazar and ten tribal representative would cast lots to determine each tribe’s portion of the land.
Next, came the Levitical inheritance. The Levites were not given their own land to possess but were scattered throughout the nation in forty-eight assigned cities. This was a fulfillment of Jacob’s death bed prophecy where he said the sons of Levi would be scattered widely. Also, by scattering them through the land the Levites had a better opportunity to teach the Law to more people and influence them to be faithful to the Lord. God was their inheritance so the Levites needed no land. The Levites were to devote themselves wholly to the service of the Lord and His people, receiving what they needed from God’s hand through His people.
As God scattered the Levites through the land to teach the law, it seems a forerunner of the great commission the Lord would give His twelve apostles. He told them to go into all the world to teach the gospel. All men needed to know the gospel so they could be saved. Then, they were told to teach those they had taught. All needed to know the will of God. God has always provided an opportunity for man to know Him and His will. While no land is inherited, as then. There is the promise of “The Promised Land.” An eternal home with God.
Israel arrives in Shittim, in the plains of Moab, where they begin to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab, and in so doing were influenced to “join themselves to Baal of Peor” (v. 3).
The bright light in this chapter is Phinehas, son of Eleazar, grandson of Aaron. While Israel was weeping before the tent of meeting (likely due to God’s anger and the death from the judges and the plague), here’s a man who has brought a Moabite woman into his tent! Phinehas sees it, and responds through killing those two (v. 8). His action turned away the wrath of God (v. 11). Twice it ways he was “jealous for his God” (v. 11, 13).
This is a dark chapter, but it comes with a serious thought – am I moved to righteous anger over sin like Phinehas? When I see blatant disregard for God’s word, am I affected? We’re saturated in a culture that knows little distinction between right and wrong. It’s easy to be so calloused to the continual exposure to evil that we barely bat an eye towards wrong being done. Injustice, profanity, immorality – when we see or hear of it, it ought to bother us. We need more Phinehas’s today. Not stabbings with spears – but people who stand up and speak up against that which is wrong. Without Phinehas sin remains in the camp. When confronted, it ends.
We speak with an understanding that I too have sinned, and need God’s grace, the gift of His Son. It’s not self-righteous – I’m better than you. And I speak, not out of hate toward the sinner, but a hate of that sin which I know destroys all that is good. So I’m kind, loving, and respectful.
Nevertheless, I speak. I speak up. I stand up for the sake of truth and for God. I try to point people to God, His standard, His will. I try to help people who are drifting from God’s path, being pulled by the way of the world. I speak up to those who’s hearts have become so hard and bitter that they leave a path of hurt wherever they go. I speak up because someone spoke up to me. Someone loved me enough to talk to me, to correct me, to point me to God, and help me get my life where it ought to. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Prov. 27:6). Will I be a friend or an enemy towards others? Enemies watch as others drift into danger, into harm. Friends have others best interest at heart, and will speak the painful words of truth to try and save them from harm. Whom will I be – a friend or an enemy? Will I sit and watch, or will I stand and speak?
Righteous Lord, we know that You hate sin, evil, and all that is wrong. Our sin has separated us from You, broken Your commandments, rejected Your love. Forgive us Father. We need Your grace, Your forgiveness. We’re amazed at Your mercy, in awe of Your longsuffering. Help us to see sin as You see sin – a disgrace, an evil, a monster. Yet help us to see others as You see them – lost, unaware of Jesus, distracted by the world, caught in a chain of addiction, and needing help, needing a friend, needing a Savior. Help us to speak up with love, to speak words of truth, to offer words of hope. Thank You for the hope we have in You – hope for forgiveness, hope for a better and brighter tomorrow, hope for a home prepared by You. Give us courage to stand, conviction to speak, and compassion to act.
Balaam speaks for the third time and when the spirit of God came upon him, he praised God and Israel. Balak is enraged. He claps his hands, for emphasis I guess, and tells Balaam, “I said I would honor you, but, in fact, the Lord has kept you back from honor.” (Numbers 24:11).
That is laughable. Balak wants to honor Balaam for cursing God’s people. God will not permit Balaam to curse His people and God gets the blame for Balaam failing to receive honor from Balak. The very reason Balak wants Balaam to curse Israel is because he is afraid of Israel because of what Israel had done to the Amorites (Numbers 20:23). So he figures if Balaam curses Israel, Israel will not be able to harm the Moabites.
Balak misses who destroy the Amorites. It was not the Israelites who destroyed them. It was God. Israel was the instrument God used to destroy them. Cursing Israel is not going to stop God. Satan used this tactic earlier in the Bible narrative. He used this tactic with Eve. He blamed God for Eve being restrained from eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Satan tells her it is God who is keeping you from fulfilment. Now Satan is using Balak to blame God for Balaam not getting the honor this puny Moabite offers him.
Balaam did what he wanted to do. But, God used him to praise and prevented him from cursing. How many times do we do what we want to do and then when it goes south we blame God for not giving us what we wanted? We blame God for failing to receive the applause we think we so richly deserve. We cry, “It is God who keep us from our due honor. It is God who keeps us from having our fun.”
Balak and Balaam show us God’s will, will be done in spite of what man wants to do. We can act in harmony with His will or we can cut ourselves against it. God is going to win!
I find today’s chapter humorous. Balaam arrives before Balak, and Balak wants Balam to pronounce a curse on Israel. So Balaam has Balak prepare the offerings, and then goes to hear a word from the Lord. When he returns he blesses Israel instead of cursing them. Of course Balak is upset (v. 11). He’s blessing the enemy, not cursing them. Balak then takes Balaam to another location to try again, but the Lord’s words are the same – blessings not curses (v. 18-24). Does this stop Balak? Nope. Let’s try one more time. Let’s try one more location – as if the location has to do with the curse (v. 27). Despite all his efforts, what Balak intended for evil, God turned into good. What started as an attempt to curse ended with blessings.
Balaam had the right attitude in this chapter. “Must I not be careful to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?” (v. 12). In other words, “if I speak on behalf of God, I’m going to be careful to say exactly what God says -not to add any of my words, or take out anything He said.” He had told Balak before, “The word that God puts in my mouth, that I shall speak” (Num. 22:38). That should have been enough for Balak. God has spoken.
But isn’t that what’s interesting – God has spoken and Balak’s response? Let’s get a second opinion. Let’s try again. Well they did, and when God spoke the 2nd time, and the 3rd time, His answer had not changed. Isn’t this the challenge of today? God has spoken, but I don’t like it. I don’t like what He says about morals, about purity, about marriage and divorce, about worship, about holy living. So what do we do? We can either bend our will and submit to God’s words, or we can be like Balak and seek a second opinion. That sounds a lot like 2 Timothy 4:3-4: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
So here’s a question for you to consider today: what do I do when I don’t like what I’ve read/heard from the word of God? You might start with the tough/honest question: “why?” Why don’t I like it? Is it because I’m struggling with this? Is it because it doesn’t line up with what I’ve been taught/believe? Is it because I know I’ll have to make some changes in my life?
The word of God that is described as sweet as honey (Ps. 19:10), is also called a sharp two-edged sword that pierces/penetrates, and is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12). Have you ever been pierced? Stepped on a piece of glass? Been poked by a thorn? It hurts. Being judged hurts. That’s a good hurt. It’s a good pain. We’re seeing who it is we are compared to who it is we ought to be – looking to the true standard of God’s word.
So many want to use the Bible like a butter knife and smooth everything over - everything is fine. God said it is a sharp sword, meant to pierce, penetrate the soul. It is the surgical blade of the Spirit used to cut away all the sinful cancers of the heart.
Don’t be like Balak. Don’t change God’s words. Don’t seek a second opinion. Let the Bible say what it says – and listen. If it hurts, let it. That hurt might produce a change in your life. It might be what brings you closer to Jesus.
Wise and all understanding God, today I thank You for Your words. What a gift they are. Through Your words we come to know You. Through Your words we see ourselves as we really are. We see Your love, Your will, and Your purpose and plan for us. They are sweet like honey, able to encourage our spirit, and comfort the brokenhearted. They are a like a lamp in a dark world, showing us truth – real truth – and guiding us to You. They are like a sword – they pierce the soul, they judge the heart, they convict the guilty. When I open Your words, help me to listen. Help me to apply what I’ve read to my life, and to obey what You’ve commanded. Soften my heart to receive correction, to be ready for instruction. Help me to better know You, and be like You, through my time spent in Your holy words.